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The rule of thirds, the spiral, the diagonals, the golden ratio, the divine proportion, the shell and the photo grid are all about the composition of objects in the frame. You have probably heard these terms more than once, and maybe you see them for the first time. I think I won’t be wrong if I assume that about 70% of all photographs in the world are made according to these composition rules.

We understand how the basic composition basics work and how to take competent photos using these rules.

## What is the golden ratio and the rule of thirds in composition

The golden ratio and the rule of thirds are visually comfortable and “correct” arrangement of objects in the frame. This is what distinguishes a “pleasant” photograph from an “unpleasant” one in the eyes of a simple viewer who does not understand photography. Built according to these schemes, the image becomes complete, with well-placed accents. It is pleasant for the eye to look at it, because all the objects inside are in harmonious balance.

Composition rules are universal and can be applied to any photo. From landscape to portrait, from fashion to street photography.

## How did the golden ratio come about

The first mention of the golden ratio dates back to the Middle Ages. The mathematician Fibonacci came to this rule, building his well-known sequence of numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.), where the two previous numbers always add up to the next one in this infinite progression .

Later, Leonardo da Vinci wrote about the divine proportion. He came to the conclusion that the golden ratio extends to everything around and is found everywhere on earth, in flora, fauna and the very structure of man. Based on this, the drawing of the “Vitruvian Man” was born.

The German philosopher of the 19th century Adolf Zeising developed the theory of the scientist. He conducted a study in which he measured more than two thousand unrelated people, and with them measurements of ancient statues. The result was impressive, and it was he who gave documentary evidence. The theory has become a fact: almost all parts of the human body are subject to the rule of the golden section, in each of them there is a ratio of the divine proportion.

The golden ratio can be most briefly expressed in relation to the smaller part of the whole to the larger, equal to the ratio of the larger to the whole. The approximate value of this proportion is 1.6180339887. And if you round it up, then — 62% by 38%.

## Painting

Divine proportion is a numerical phenomenon, but it is easily translated into the plane of visual art. The essence is simple: the rectangle is divided into a square and a rectangle, the smaller of the sides of which is half the side of the square. Next, the resulting rectangle is drawn in a similar way, then the next one, and so on. Through the resulting squares, quarters of circles can be drawn, connecting them together. This will turn out the golden ratio, the spiral of which can be shifted to any image. Its swirling center is the logical center of the photo, where the subject should be placed.

There is also a more simplified scheme: the frame rectangle is drawn with lines similar to those shown below. The points of intersection of the lines in the numerical coefficient will be 3/8 and 5/8 (the same divine proportion). It is based on them that you should compose a photo.

If you still doubt the application and efficiency of this rule in practice, then just look at the older brother of photography — painting. Divine proportion can be found in a variety of works — modern and long-standing classics.

## Photography and the rule of thirds

The golden ratio is closely intertwined with the rule of thirds, another important pattern when working with the visual. Just as photography can be considered the younger brother of fine art, so the rule of thirds was born from the golden ratio.

The main difference is in the aspect ratio. In the case of thirds, the frame is divided into three equal parts, and the golden ratio divides it in a ratio of 1:0.618:1.

The rule of thirds can be considered a simplified version of the divine proportion. Most importantly, it works!

The lined grid of thirds is built into all modern cameras, including smartphones. By placing objects on the nodes of contact lines, you can build a competent composition.

**What should you rely on?**

- Intersection points on the lines of thirds. By placing the key subject on them, you will make the picture more comfortable for perception;

- diagonal composition. This can be either an intuitive line that can be drawn from the upper corner of the frame to the lower one, or objects that are located in such a way that they form this line in their size gradation. Several different diagonals will add dynamics to the frame. An ascending diagonal (from the lower left corner to the upper right) will create a major mood of the picture, a descending diagonal will create a minor one;

- Proportions. First of all, this concerns the relationship of objects on different planes of photography. The same divine proportion, only transferred to the ratio of an object in the foreground to a smaller object in the background (or vice versa);

- Skyline. When it comes to landscape photography, city shots, or general shots in portraits, try to fit the horizon line along one of the horizontal third lines. This will make the shot stronger;

- Air. Let the object in the frame “breathe”: if it is a portrait, leave a space between the edge of the frame and the person’s head. If the person’s gaze is directed to the right, place it at the left intersection points of the lines and leave space for the gaze (and vice versa).

## Can this rule be bypassed?

Briefly: yes. A rule is a rule, so it can be situationally broken if the circumstances are right. Let’s look at a few specific cases.

- Symmetry. The location along the axes is good for visual perception, but not always appropriate. For example, if you are planning a perfectly symmetrical frame. Then yes, it is worth placing the center of this symmetry exactly in the middle;

- Perspective. Symmetry is not required: the main subject may or may not be located deep in the frame. Perspective can be an end in itself and the main technique to enhance the depth of the frame;

- Frames as a compositional device. Objects in the foreground can create a visual sense of a frame, framing the photo, even if the rest of the objects aren’t on the lines of thirds;

- Object in the center of the frame. Ideal for shots where there is no symmetry, but you need to focus on a specific subject in the frame. This rule is especially worth looking at in cases where the frame is overloaded with details;

- Strengthening the size of an object. The horizon is usually recommended to be placed along one of the lines of thirds. However, if you want to enhance the object being shot, then you can ignore this rule and, for example, move the horizon line almost close to the bottom of the frame;

- Strengthening the “smallness” of the object. This can be achieved by covering more space around the main subject if it enhances the contrast. This will create a visual contradiction;

- Dynamics. Any picture will look more dynamic if the angle has a slope (academically — the Dutch angle technique), and in the case of an object — it is not at all in thirds. The object will attract attention even more with compositional disharmony, and the tilt will remove unnecessary static from the person in the frame.

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